By Jeremy Stafford - firstname.lastname@example.org
QUICKSBURG -- When Caleb Golladay hobbled off the Stonewall Jackson pitch in the 73rd minute to scattered claps and cheers, cramps clinging to both his calves, it was evident just how much energy the senior had exerted.
Still, Golladay stretched out his legs, trotted up and down the sidelines, and hoped to get back to the match against Clarke County.
"I've gotta start eating bananas," Golladay laughed. "That was maybe the first time I've cramped up in a while -- since last year during the district final."
When he was finally let back onto the field, Golladay watched his Generals hold off a minute's worth of desperate Eagle runs before time ran out, and Clarke County dropped its collective head to the ground.
The numbers 1-0, glowing dimly on the scoreboard at the other end of the pitch, were further evidence of how much effort Golladay had exerted.
His goal, scored in the 47th minute, proved monumental considering neither Stonewall Jackson nor Clarke County managed many quality shots in front of an open-mouthed goal.
Fittingly, Golladay's goal further represented a positive departure from last season, when former Stonewall Jackson forward Armando Moreno (33 goals last season) did most of the Generals' scoring.
Moreno, for personal reasons, did not come out for the team this season.
Golladay first heard the Generals would be without Moreno by way of rumor earlier in the school year. Golladay asked Stonewall Jackson coach Nate Hissong about Moreno's absence, and Hissong confirmed the rumor.
The Generals coach then spooned Golladay another surprise: He would be the one to replace Moreno up top as the Generals' go-to scorer.
"Armando was definitely the target last year and you saw glimpses of it tonight, where [Golladay] was our primary target," Hissong said. "Players are looking to Caleb, and he had some pretty good opportunities tonight."
Not that moving from outside midfield to forward is a tall task for Golladay. The senior played at forward in his travel leagues, and he saw time up top on more than a few occasions last season.
"I think Caleb's always been good, so I think whenever he needs to, he steps up," Generals senior Patrick Bain said. "I think he's just gonna score more goals now -- because he was capable last year, but now he's running up top."
Indeed, the only serious adjustment Golladay has made in his move to forward has been in the limiting of his touches.
One touch into the box, one touch to score -- that's all Golladay expects to see from himself this season.
Because he certainly isn't hurling himself under the pressure of matching Moreno goal-for-goal.
Sitting in the Generals locker room one afternoon, Golladay was reminded that he has improved his goal-scoring every year. As a freshman he scored once; as a sophomore he scored three times. Last season he poured 11 goals on opponents.
Managing the left flank against Clarke County, Golladay showed glimmers of his predecessor. He juggled the ball over the heads of defenders, and he played balls to the top of the box.
What gave Stonewall fits, though, was Clarke County's aggressive play in the air, and their cluster of midfielders at the halfway line.
"We have a concentration in the middle. I think that that helped," Clarke County coach Andrew Porter said. "I also think that the great play from our players really helped, too. I think Marty [Dors] did a great job keeping the ball on their end of the field for a long portion of that."
Running a 3-2-3-2 formation, the Eagles, at any given moment, boasted five players at midfield to the Generals' four. Whenever Bain received a ball, he was marked immediately by a swarm of Eagles. He did manage to shimmy down the Clarke County flank a couple times, with one trip being successful.
Stuck in the left corner on Clarke County's side, Bain broke toward the top of the box. Once again Clarke County collapsed on him. Bain dumped the ball back down to the corner, where Juan Flores sent a cross to Golladay, positioned just above the six-yard mark.
The cross sailed between Clarke County keeper Zac Rogers and the Eagles' last defender. Golladay didn't think the cross would ever get to him; nor did he think the shot he dinked would pass Rogers for the game's lone score.